To most North Texans, he was known simply as Mr. Peppermint.
In his candy-stripe coat, Jerome "Jerry" Haynes hosted the popular children's show on WFAA/Channel 8 for 35 years and more than 6,000 shows.
Mr. Haynes died Monday in Longview of complications related to Parkinson's disease, his family said. He was 84.
An accomplished actor, Mr. Haynes also appeared in more than 50 films, including Places in the Heart, Robo Cop and Boys Don't Cry.
But to generations of children, he will always be the gentle Mr. Peppermint.
"For Dallas-Fort Worth media, he was there at the start -- he was really the first big one," said writer Joe Nick Patoski, a Fort Worth native who interviewed Mr. Haynes twice for Texas Monthly.
"He really did have this gentleness about him that Officer Friendly and Icky Twerp didn't have," Patoski said. Officer Friendly and Icky Twerp were characters on competing TV stations.
"Of course, by the time you were a teenager you were making fun of him for that sweetness, but by then he had already captured a whole new generation of kids."
In person, Patoski said, Mr. Haynes struck him as "more worldly, more mischievous" than his Mr. Peppermint character. He once interviewed Mr. Haynes and his son, Gibson "Gibby" Haynes, lead singer of the Austin-based punk band B-hole Surfers, and was struck by the similarity in their natures.
"The thing I took away from that was they were two peas in a pod," Patoski said. "He was just so proud of Gibby, and he had his own way in the world. They were both very astute, and I think they both enjoyed being provocateurs."
Mr. Haynes was born Jan 31, 1927, in Dallas.
He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1944 and served in the Air Force from 1946 to 1949.
After his discharge, he graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in theater arts and went to New York, where he tried unsuccessfully to make it as an actor.
He returned home and went to work for Channel 8 in the 1950s, hosting shows like Dallas Bandstand, a local offshoot of American Bandstand.
He met his wife, Doris, a flight attendant, on a plane ride to visit an old girlfriend in 1954, and they married on May 29, 1955, in Dallas.
For all 35 years Mr. Peppermint was on the air, Vern Dailey was there with Mr. Haynes, creating characters like Muffin the Bear, Jingles the Dragon and Mr. Wiggly Worm.
"Channel 8 came to us and said the FCC wanted every local station to have a children's show and did we want to do it," Dailey said. "We started with nothing -- he stole the candy-striped coat from The Music Man -- and the budget for the show at the beginning was $1 a day."
But Mr. Haynes became an institution by treating kids as equals and becoming totally immersed in the show.
"He completely separated me from Muffin," said Dailey, 82, who now lives in Wills Point. "Muffin was real to him. He would forget Muffin couldn't swallow and give him a bite to eat. To Jerry, he was real, like one of his children."
Growing up as the children of the man who played Mr. Peppermint was perfectly normal, said his daughter, Carla Mann of Longview.
All the kids appeared on the show occasionally. One of her brothers did magic tricks, and they all brought their pets on.
"We assumed everybody's father was on TV," Mann said. "We got to go to Six Flags for free. We got to go to Dallas Cowboys games. We got to know a lot of the Cowboys players, which was a great memory."
Her father kept the show's popularity in perspective and got a kick out of an oft-told story about a little girl who told him, "I love your show, but my mother is sick of you."
Other survivors include his wife, of Longview; son, Andy Haynes of New York; and five grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698